Michael McLane

Michael is investigating the WWII 'American Invasion' of NZ by US Marines and Army forces with a focus on skirmishes between US and NZ troops in Wellington.

Commenced 2019

Michael is a poet, essayist, and editor from Salt Lake City, Utah. He is the author of of the chapbook Trace Elements: Mapping the Great Basin and its Peripheries and his work has appeared in numerous journals, including Dark Mountain, Terrain.org, Western Humanities Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Laurel Review, High Country News and South Dakota Review; and in the forthcoming book Blossom as the Cliffrose: Mormon Legacies and the Beckoning Wild (Torrey House Press, 2020).

He is a founding editor of saltfront: studies in human habit(at) and a contributing editor for Sugar House Review. 

He holds an MS in Environmental Humanities from the University of Utah and an MFA in Creative Writing from Colorado State University. From 2012 to 2019, he was the director of the Center for the Book at Utah Humanities as well as the Utah Humanities Book Festival, a month-long celebration of literature around the state of Utah that featured many regional authors alongside nationally- and internationally-renowned poets, writers, and editors. He also serves on the boards of City Art, the longest-running reading series in Utah, and Zion Canyon Mesa, a retreat for artists and writers set to open just outside Zion National Park in early 2020.

Michael writes: 'I'm interested in the build-up of the Pacific theater during World War II, particularly America's entry into the war and early interactions (1942-43) with the Dominion of New Zealand as well other Pacific nations and colonies and how both American and Kiwi groups viewed these interactions. While American troops were initially greeted as heroes at their early ports of call, including Auckland and Wellington, such feelings were often short-lived or at least quickly complicated for both the NZ citizenry and the government. The phrase "American Invasion," initially a tongue-in-cheek tribute, became less and less tongue-in-cheek as the Yanks' time here went on.

'On a domestic level, many women in New Zealand had been without their husbands, fiancees, and boyfriends for years at this point (unlike Australian forces, NZ troops were mostly not brought back from the Middle East until long after the Americans' arrival), so the arrival of Marines perceived to be well-paid, wall-mannered, and to have the swagger Hollywood so often portrayed, caused a great deal of turmoil for NZ soldiers away from home and for women in Wellington and elsewhere. American forces, particularly those from the American South, also brought with them an overt racism that was often directed at Maori soldiers and citizens. On a more systemic level, the American military believed its people to be answerable only to its own officials and courts and not to any municipal or national systems within New Zealand. Likewise, the British government with its dwindling coffers, and thus its dominions and colonies, were largely at the mercy of the American government and its rapidly increasing military-industrial machine. This led to the American government and military essentially dictating how the Pacific theater would operate and what the post-war world in the Pacific would look like, despite numerous protests from the New Zealand government and others.

'The first vestiges of the American imperialism on geopolitical, economic, and cultural levels that would ramp up significantly following the close of the war preceded them in these early days, both to the benefit and detriment of troops and officials representing these values. Issues of economics, race, and masculinity that fed into the macrocosm of war also played out on a micro level in the form of skirmishes and riots between US and NZ troops (and even some civilians), with the most famous of these incidents being "The Battle of Manners Street." Government censorship of the media on both sides during this period led to both embellishment and misunderstanding of such events, and contradictory accounts have endured.Through both poetry and critical work, I'd like to take a closer look at what catalyzed such events as well as the accounts of the "American Invasion" from both sides to better understand better how America's occupation of the Pacific during the war factored into the kind of imperialism it would employ in a post-war world.'

Read more:

'Letter to America' (Terrain.org)

'Postcards from fire' (High Country News)

Poetry in Otisnebula

saltfront: studies in human habit(at)

Sugar House Review

'Dispatches from a Stricken World III' (Dark Mountain)